Free coffee and squishy chairs in darkly-lit auditoriums are just a couple of things that come to mind when thinking about the modern-day church. Between hunting for the best parking spot or nestling in layers of blankets while watching livestream, it seems we have one priority in particular as we hope to reach people with the Gospel: comfort.
In this age, the body of Christ has tools at its disposal like never before. We have large screens, small screens, overflow rooms, digital marketing, concert halls, and stadiums. Our lights spin in circles and display shapes. Our sanctuaries are akin to movie theatres. Our music is diverse, stepping into dozens of genres from contemporary to rap to alternative. There has never been a time when the Church has more ability to cross cultural barriers and meet social standards.
While we should celebrate this opportunity, I’m starting to wonder if we’ve shifted our focus from sharing the true Gospel to sharing the Gospel in a comfortable way for our culture to digest.
Recently, in a bible study I chose to dive into the Radical Abandonment study by David Platt. This study joins the messages of his two books, Radical and Radical Together, to illuminate a problem in American Christianity. Francis Chan’s new release, Letters to the Church, calls Christians to reform the way they do church to fit biblical standards. In reading Luke chapters four and five, I couldn’t help but see the common thread between these books and the point Jesus makes in the text.
Throughout these chapters, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit to do the works of the Spirit. Jesus is led by the Spirit in and out of the wilderness. He is led to Nazareth, where He declares His true purpose. Jesus is led to Capernaum, where He delivers a man from demon possession. He is led to Galilee, where He calls His first disciples. Jesus goes from place to place sharing the Gospel and performing the works of the Holy Spirit.
“’The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because He has anointed me
to proclaim food news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sign for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”
–Luke 4:18-19 NIV
Jesus is our example of true discipleship. He follows the leading of the Holy Spirit, making new disciples as He bridges social gaps within religion. We would all agree, Jesus’ example is impeccable, and we all want to be just like Him. But we often find ourselves shaping the Gospel and controlling the Holy Spirit in ways He never did.
The Holy Spirit led Jesus to unusual places to do unexpected things through and for uncommon people. Jesus wasn’t directed to meet the standards of the culture. In fact, He was dragged off and almost killed because He wouldn’t perform the same works of the Spirit in His hometown. Jesus didn’t bend His faith to fit the comforts and expectations of others.
“All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built in order to throw Him off the cliff.”
–Luke 4:28-29 NIV
I’m not at all saying it’s wrong to do what you can to reach lost souls. Evangelism and discipleship are more important now than ever. What I’m simply suggesting is that our Christianity has been centered on culture instead of Christ, and because of this, we are unable to see the Holy Spirit freely move in our churches and ministries.
During an interview, Francis Chan talked about a church pastor he knew from the Philippines. The pastor shepherds a megachurch of 30,000 members. He used to regularly send missionaries to America for Bible training. Unfortunately, none of the missionaries he sent went back to the Philippines. The pastor said that they saw the comforts and salaries available to them and made up excuses to relocate to the United States.
This truly hurts my heart. The comfortability of American Christianity is devouring the pure passion of ministers around the world, and, I’m afraid it’s polluting the purity of our passion for Christ.
Jesus was fully guided by the Holy Spirit in all that He did. He didn’t try to make things easy. He didn’t jump through hoops to water down His message. He chose to be an anomaly, standing up for what’s right over what’s comfortable. He spoke what was true in love – sometimes in tough love – and transformed the hearts of people who were otherwise looked over.
If Jesus is our model of true discipleship, we must flip the switch on our current efforts. Instead of making the Gospel likable to everyone, we need to remain pure in our passion for evangelism. We have to stop trying to control the Holy Spirit to meet our desires in the ways we choose. It’s time to reorient our Christian culture around our faith, choosing to follow the counter-culture Christ. Let the Holy Spirit lead you as you work to make God’s name famous around the world. Follow in the footsteps of Christ, going into unusual placed to do unexpected things through and for uncommon people.
Featured photo by Allison Mims